Microscopic modelling of freeway operations

Bunker, Jonathan M. (1996) Microscopic modelling of freeway operations. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.

Doctor of Philosophy Thesis (PDF 15MB)
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Freeways are divided roadways designed to facilitate the uninterrupted movement of motor vehicles. However, many freeways now experience demand flows in excess of capacity, leading to recurrent congestion. The Highway Capacity Manual (TRB, 1994) uses empirical macroscopic relationships between speed, flow and density to quantify freeway operations and performance. Capacity may be predicted as the maximum uncongested flow achievable. Although they are effective tools for design and analysis, macroscopic models lack an understanding of the nature of processes taking place in the system. Szwed and Smith (1972, 1974) and Makigami and Matsuo (1990) have shown that microscopic modelling is also applicable to freeway operations. Such models facilitate an understanding of the processes whilst providing for the assessment of performance, through measures of capacity and delay. However, these models are limited to only a few circumstances. The aim of this study was to produce more comprehensive and practical microscopic models. These models were required to accurately portray the mechanisms of freeway operations at the specific locations under consideration. The models needed to be able to be calibrated using data acquired at these locations. The output of the models needed to be able to be validated with data acquired at these sites. Therefore, the outputs should be truly descriptive of the performance of the facility. A theoretical basis needed to underlie the form of these models, rather than empiricism, which is the case for the macroscopic models currently used. And the models needed to be adaptable to variable operating conditions, so that they may be applied, where possible, to other similar systems and facilities. It was not possible to produce a stand-alone model which is applicable to all facilities and locations, in this single study, however the scene has been set for the application of the models to a much broader range of operating conditions. Opportunities for further development of the models were identified, and procedures provided for the calibration and validation of the models to a wide range of conditions. The models developed, do however, have limitations in their applicability. Only uncongested operations were studied and represented. Driver behaviour in Brisbane was applied to the models. Different mechanisms are likely in other locations due to variability in road rules and driving cultures. Not all manoeuvres evident were modelled. Some unusual manoeuvres were considered unwarranted to model. However the models developed contain the principal processes of freeway operations, merging and lane changing. Gap acceptance theory was applied to these critical operations to assess freeway performance. Gap acceptance theory was found to be applicable to merging, however the major stream, the kerb lane traffic, exercises only a limited priority over the minor stream, the on-ramp traffic. Theory was established to account for this activity. Kerb lane drivers were also found to change to the median lane where possible, to assist coincident mergers. The net limited priority model accounts for this by predicting a reduced major stream flow rate, which excludes lane changers. Cowan's M3 model as calibrated for both streams. On-ramp and total upstream flow are required as input. Relationships between proportion of headways greater than 1 s and flow differed for on-ramps where traffic leaves signalised intersections and unsignalised intersections. Constant departure onramp metering was also modelled. Minimum follow-on times of 1 to 1.2 s were calibrated. Critical gaps were shown to lie between the minimum follow-on time, and the sum of the minimum follow-on time and the 1 s minimum headway. Limited priority capacity and other boundary relationships were established by Troutbeck (1995). The minimum average minor stream delay and corresponding proportion of drivers delayed were quantified theoretically in this study. A simulation model was constructed to predict intermediate minor and major stream delays across all minor and major stream flows. Pseudo-empirical relationships were established to predict average delays. Major stream average delays are limited to 0.5 s, insignificant compared with minor stream delay, which reach infinity at capacity. Minor stream delays were shown to be less when unsignalised intersections are located upstream of on-ramps than signalised intersections, and less still when ramp metering is installed. Smaller delays correspond to improved merge area performance. A more tangible performance measure, the distribution of distances required to merge, was established by including design speeds. This distribution can be measured to validate the model. Merging probabilities can be predicted for given taper lengths, a most useful performance measure. This model was also shown to be applicable to lane changing. Tolerable limits to merging probabilities require calibration. From these, practical capacities can be estimated. Further calibration is required of traffic inputs, critical gap and minimum follow-on time, for both merging and lane changing. A general relationship to predict proportion of drivers delayed requires development. These models can then be used to complement existing macroscopic models to assess performance, and provide further insight into the nature of operations.

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ID Code: 41266
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Troutbeck, Rodney & Ferreira, Luis
Keywords: traffic engineering, freeway operations, gap acceptance, limited priority
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Built Environment and Engineering
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Jonathan M. Bunker
Deposited On: 15 Apr 2011 04:15
Last Modified: 30 Sep 2014 05:09

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